By Brandon HENSLEY
Ric Cly, a local area baseball coach who spent time with St. Francis High School, passed away on Jan. 12 due to complications from leukemia and pneumonia. He was 66.
Cly grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, and played baseball and tennis. He turned his attention to coaching after high school and helped players from age 5 to adults along his journey.
“He was very passionate. He was very giving. Very knowledgeable in the game of baseball,” said his son Jason.
Jason was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in 1997 out of Arcadia High School. He chose Chino State instead, and led his team to the NCAA Division II championship. In 2007 he formed Cly Baseball Academy, and he and his father were able to work together instructing players.
“It was time well spent; as father and son should probably do … He loved coaching the game of baseball. All of his successes really came from baseball.”
Cly was known to have a rough exterior, but people who knew him said his softer side would come out once people got to know him.
“When you peel back the layers you find a very heart-warming person,” said Rudy Ortiz, president of the Valley Christian Athletic Association in Encino, which Cly coached and gave supplemental instruction.
“He was the kind of guy who was hard to get to know, but once you did he was a teddy bear,” said Burbank High School baseball coach Bob Hart, who had Cly work with the program recently. “On the outside, [he] was a hardass. He would appreciate me saying that because he was. But if you got to know him he also had a very baseball passionate side, and a compassionate side as a person. He was empathetic. He cared about the players.”
Ortiz said he saw Cly’s softer side when his wife Judy passed away unexpectedly in 2014. Ortiz was surprised at Cly’s revealing more to his personality in his grief.
But it was Cly’s knowledge of baseball that impressed people and which left a lasting mark. Ortiz, who has been a part of VCAA for 20 years, said he learned the finer points of baseball by listening to Cly.
“I think that what is really wonderful about him is his love for the game and his vast knowledge and he wanted to share with whomever wanted to hear and learn from it,” Ortiz said.
Cly was also willing to help the organization in many ways, like trying to get a better deal on uniforms.
“He made the extra effort and the extra step to help people out,” Ortiz said.
Hart met Cly while he was giving private instruction at the Batcade batting cages in Burbank. That meeting turned into discussions on how to help the Bulldogs’ program, and Hart was thankful for Cly’s assistance, which included coaching the freshmen and JV teams and helping with pitching on the varsity team.
“He was committed, a guy the kids really respected,” Hart said.
“He’s a gruff guy. He’s old school. He was ‘my way or the highway,’” Jason said. “That’s why he was so good at what he did.”
Cly spent time as head coach of the St. Francis program in the 1980s. In 1988, Cly had second baseman Mark Loretta and catcher Gregg Zaun, both of whom went to play in the major leagues. Another player on that team was Derek Bedell, who now is the head varsity football coach at Mayfair High School. Bedell tweeted his sentiments on Cly last week.
“So sorry to hear of the passing of my pony/colt and high school baseball coach Ric Cly. He was a tremendous man and coach,” Bedell wrote.
Jason expressed his thoughts on Facebook after his father’s passing.
“Dad you taught me baseball, you taught me values you gave me morals you believed in me,” he wrote. “You gave me strength showed me courage, picked me up when I was down, kicked me around when I was dumb, you made me laugh and made me cry, but I am the happiest son ever I am, and for that I am blessed to have been your son. You are the best dad ever.”